The Audit Commission, which surveyed 300 hospitals, said that pounds 15m - almost one-third of NHS costs for water and sewage - could be saved. In some hospitals up to 50 per cent of consumption was lost through leaks. One hospital was found to be using twice as much water as another of equal size in the same city. A leak, which cost pounds 500,000, was to blame.
Excluding laundry requirements, more than half of the water used in hospitals is for flushing toilets and washing for staff and patients. But urinal flush controls were wrongly set in most hospitals and flushed more frequently than needed. Too much water was used to flush chemicals and drugs down the drain; hydrotherapy pools were drained too often; and food was being defrosted using running water, the report said.
The commission also found that hospitals failed to check their water bills and overpayments were common. One health authority paid an extra pounds 155,000 over four years.
After electricity, water is the fastest growing utility cost in the NHS. Last year pounds 52m was spent on charges. But because water has a 'low profile,' few managers look to save on water bills, the report said. In a staff survey, only 3 per cent were aware that hospitals are charged for the amount of water they use.
Untapped Savings: Water Services in the NHS; HMSO; pounds 6.Reuse content